Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hiking Log: 9-23-2018

  • Trail: Rock Creek - Mineral Rd. 
  • Miles: 2.03
  • Hikers: Self
  • Dogs: Shade and Hank

Journal Entry: 

Life is like an unopened tube of bottle caps

The dogs don't always get to go with me. Not all places are dog-friendly and some of the rides are too far without water. They had to stay home all weekend so I promised them that Sunday was dog-day. We drove up Rock Creek through private ranches and parked a few yards before the public access area courtesy of Rocking M Ranch and the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. I think we were technically on private property still but it was not posted. I doubt anybody would care if an old lady and her dogs were roaming around. Besides - I always pick up trash on my way in and out. Sort of like perpetual litter patrol. 

We pulled off at a wide spot on Mineral Rd. and hiked up an old four wheeler trail. My GPS designated the road as "Minor Highway." Kind of an over-confident statement for a road barely suitable for four-wheeler traffic. 

Part way up the dogs went over the bank for water to a stream running through a grove of trees and thick brush. Shade lets out an excited bark. Instead of grabbing for my camera - I grabbed for my .380, convinced a bear will be charging out of the bushes toward me any moment. Shade barks again and bushes begin to rustle. Maybe it's not a bear. Maybe it’s a cougar! I think about grabbing my camera to get a shot off just before I'm eaten by a rabid, hiker eating cougar. More barking...more rustling - closer this time and straight at me. I brace myself for the kill as a terrified, innocuous, bushy-tailed red fox lunges out of the bushes toward me - makes an abrupt 180 and heads the other direction. It COULD have been bear - or a cougar. It could have been a serial killer!  

Hank took off in one direction and Shade the other. I called to the dogs when they got out of sight. Hank immediately came back. I whistled again, louder this time. Still no sign of Shade. I called and whistled as we continued to walk up the trail. I'd been calling and whistling for a good five minutes, more worrisome as time passed. I know she doesn’t hear as well as she did. Sometimes I wonder if she hasn’t lost some sight as well. Maybe she had gone back to the truck? She’s done that before when she grew tired on a long hike or ride. I wasn’t sure whether to keep going or head back. I happen to look up and caught a glimpse of her as she was about to head over the top of a hill. I whistled again as loud as I could. She seemed to hesitate, look around and progress faster up the hill. I imagine she heard the whistle but couldn't tell which direction it came from. She's in good enough shape that I knew I couldn't get to the top of the hill before she headed down the other side to who-knows where. I decided to try and head around the bottom of the hill and cut her off - hoping she didn't turn around, head back down and get totally confused finding us gone. 

I made a mad dash around the hill, relieved to see a trail that followed the base of the mountain in the direction I wanted to go. Once around the hill I whistled again. Hank perked up and stared up the draw on the back side of the hill we last saw her. Shade bound off the hill toward us. I’d like to think she wasn't lost at all. She use to do that all the time as a young dog. She would take off after something and I could not call her back for nothing. An hour later she would come trotting in, tongue hanging out and exhausted looking all sheepish. I wish with all my heart that was still the case. Shade didn't look sheepish this time. She looked relieved. It breaks my heart to see her slow down. Knowing it's inevitable doesn't make it any easier. 

We hiked to the top of a hill to take pictures and rest before turning back. Shade and Hank led the way back toward the truck. Every 30 yards or so, Shade would stop, look back and make sure I hadn't wandered off and gotten lost again. 

Safe from bears, cougars and serial killers - I ejected the live round from the chamber. The .380 slipped out of my hand and fell between the seats of the truck. I slid my hand between the cushions and felt around. I shuddered at the sensation you get when you feel around for lost stuff in couch cushions. I pulled out leaves, dog hair, plastic water bottle caps, coins, a half dozen pens the banks send you in drive-up vacuum capsules - gum wrappers - gum still IN the wrappers - an old stand-alone GPS and a pair of sunglasses I hadn't seen in years. My fingers felt something round and smooth. It could be a .380 brass. I clamped my fingers around it and pulled it gently up through the cushion. An unopened, still in the wrapper tube of candy bottle caps unexpectedly appeared in place of ammo. SCORE! 

I pulled the old dodge back onto the road. Shade and Hank peered over my shoulder from the back-seat looking happy as...well, happy as a couple dogs who seem to know they have a pretty darn good life.

Life is like that sometimes. You set out looking for one thing you lost and end up finding really cool stuff you didn't know was there all along. 


  1. Wonderful story as always. In our hearts ourselves & our pets never grow old